Did Howie Roseman's Lack of Discipline Derail Eagles?

The Eagles had a plan and shifted away from it
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PHILADELPHIA - Rewind to January of 2020 and the Eagles were coming off a disappointing playoff loss to Seattle, one in which many thought would have gone Philadelphia's way if not for the borderline Jadeveon Clowney hit that knocked Carson Wentz out of the game.

Howie Roseman wasn't buying the fool's gold of a 9-7 record and a late-season run against inferior NFC East foes, or so it seemed.

"We have a lot to do going forward," the Eagles GM said at his season-ending press conference following the 2019 season. "When we look at our team from 2017 to 2019, we knew that we had one team. Really, a team that we were basically going to stick with. We didn't have a lot of resources in terms of draft picks. That's on me. We made trades for some veteran players to go win. We stick to that. We're glad of those decisions.

"But going forward we need to infuse youth in this team. We have 10 draft picks. We think we're going to have 10 draft picks in this draft and we're excited about that. When we look at what the young players did for our team down the stretch, it's a great tribute to them; it's a great tribute to our coaching staff and it’s a great tribute to our developmental program that we take a lot of pride in."

The Eagles were moving in that path when the pandemic hit and it became increasingly clear that there would be little to no offseason in a division where the other three teams were rebooting their entire coaching staff.

Surely the continuity of a Super Bowl-winning coach, albeit without the offensive coordinator he wanted to keep, would have a significant advantage in the strange new world of COVID-19.

Those at One NovaCare Way were hardly the only ones to think that but the autopsy on the 2020 season is just beginning on a dismal 4-11-1 season, easily the worst of Doug Pederson era and the franchise's low point since the four-win 2012 season, Andy Reid's last in Philadelphia.

Roseman, like Pederson himself, refused to blame the pandemic but did give some interesting insight into a shift in philosophy related to the environment that ultimately hurt the Eagles when he held his 2020 season wrap-up on Monday morning.

"Well, I don't want to blame this on the pandemic," said Roseman before pivoting and acknowledging a lack of discipline toward his original plan affected the bottom line.

"I think what we saw was we had an opportunity with having the only staff that was coming back to maybe make more of a run with veteran players than we were planning if we had an off-season program if we had OTAs and giving those guys the opportunities," said Roseman.

And the GM himself reverted back to his words after the Seattle loss and how the shift to the unknown of a virtual atmosphere altered decision-making.

"I think that was something that we felt last year when we talked after the Seattle playoff game, and I think because of the way the window was, maybe we felt like we weren't able to do our player development as much as we would in a normal year and whether that's right or wrong, that's one of the things we have to look back on and how we adjusted to that," Roseman conceded.

That said, plenty of rookies excelled around the NFL in 2020, perhaps most notably potential Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Jefferson, a player the Eagles could have had at No. 21 overall.

"Obviously the guy you're talking about [Jefferson] has had a phenomenal year," Roseman said. "It's not like our head is in the sand and we don't see that and we didn't spend a lot of time on that guy."

Roseman isn't ready to give up on his own WR choice, Jalen Reagor, however.

"Obviously, I think when you talk to other GMs in this league, if everyone knew what those guys were going to do, they wouldn't even be close to the pick that they were at and there were other receivers taken," he explained. "We went into the draft trying to find the right guys for our team in terms of what we thought we needed to have a better offense. That's with a lot of discussion, with our scouts, with our coaches. There's definitely a lot of opinions on this draft class and this receiver class for sure.

"I would also say Jalen is a very young player, just turned 22. He missed a bunch of games with injuries. He didn't really have durability issues in college and sometimes those things over a period of time, you know, they play out."

The larger theme, however, was defaulting back to veteran players like Jason Peters.

"Now there are a lot of rookies who played really well this year and again not making that as an excuse. But when we had some opportunities after the draft to kind of change this team, I think we went with some veteran players, and I think we did that because it was more short-term thinking," Roseman admitted.

And now?

The pivot has arrived and there's no turning back.

"We've put a lot of resources into this team in terms of money and free agents and trading draft picks and there's a time where -- that doesn't mean we're not trying to win, but there's a time you have to pivot and understand what you've been doing and make sure that you're also taking care of the future of the team," Roseman surmised.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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